Wednesday, March 19, 2008

'The Bank Job' Pays Off

Looking for the next great heist film? If so, look no further than "The Bank Job," because "The Bank Job" is the British heist film that's beginning to rake it in at the box office, and for good reason.

Based on the infamous 1971 robbery of Lloyds Bank in Marylebone, England, one of the biggest heists in British history, "The Bank Job" is an intelligent thriller with a great cast that delivers a clever plot that's so riveting you'll want to come back for seconds.

It's 1971 in East London and Michael X, a radical gangster causing trouble for the British government, is in possession of some compromising photos of a member of the royal family, which he is using to blackmail high-up government officials. To eliminate the threat of the photos being released, the family sets up a heist that entails breaking into the safe deposit boxes of the Lloyds Bank where Michael X has the photos stored. In order to keep the heist untraceable to the government, they work with a woman named Martine Love. She then pitches the idea to a group of small-time criminals, who are at first hesitant to take the job but eventually reconsider, going into action.

The plan is to purchase Le Sac, a leather goods store two units down from the Lloyds Bank, and then to tunnel below the next door eatery and up into the vault of safety deposit boxes. Terry Leather, the leader of the crew, recruits a few new guys and the heist begins. From then, the plot picks up and what seems like the perfect robbery turns into a deadly mess of sex scandals, corruption and murder that has the crew running for their lives.

"The Bank Job" stars Jason Statham ("Transporter," "The Italian Job"), Saffron Burrows ("Deep Blue Sea") and several virtually unknown actors. The main cast of anti-heroes is pretty well rounded and Statham gives a great performance as Terry Leather - surprising, considering his lackluster curriculum vitae.

In "The Bank Job," Statham portrays a likable family man who does a little crime on the side to get along. Statham gives his character depth, showing great promise as an actor, especially in scenes with his wife. With every wrong turn his character takes, Statham makes the part more believable as he has to deal with the repercussions of the crime.

The real credit goes to writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais for their smart handling of the intriguing script. In the trailer for "The Bank Job," the film seems comical and silly; however, with the exception of a comic line here or there, it's not really funny at all. Instead "The Bank Job" is one great ride, which may start out a bit slow for the first half hour, but picks up around the time of the heist and keeps up the pace. It delivers many twists and turns and pays off big in the end.

Grade: A-

Sunday, January 13, 2008

El Orfanato

It’s Friday night, and you and your friends are headed to the movies to catch the latest horror flick that you’ve been dying to see. After months of watching the ever-so-creepy trailers pop up in between your favorite shows, you’re finally going to see the movie that will be sure to give you the scare of your life. You’ve got your popcorn, your perfect seats, the lights dim and…nothing. You leave the theater thoroughly disappointed because everything scary was in the trailer and the actors were just running around screaming the entire time. You think to yourself, “Well, I guess horror movies are never good movies,” making yourself feel a bit better about wasting the last ten bucks in your wallet. The Orphanage however, is in a class of its own, it’s not just a great horror movie, but a great movie as well. It doesn’t rely on gruesome deaths or special effects, but instead on a great script, perfect setting and phenomenal acting. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a person who rattles easily, so when someone gets decapitated in a movie, no big deal. However, a creepy little child in a long dark hallway wearing a dirtied burlap mask was enough to make me and the rest of the people in the theater scream out loud more than once.

The movie centers on Laura (Belen Rueda), who as a young girl spent some years in an orphanage on the Spanish coast until she was adopted, never knowing what became of the other children she had to leave behind. Many years later, after adopting a child of her own, Laura and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo), decide to move into the old orphanage, which has been abandoned, making it into a home for sick and disabled children. Their seven-year-old son Simon (Roger Princep), who has imaginary friends, will now finally have other children to play with. Shortly before the opening of the orphanage, Simon befriends a new boy down at the beach named Tomas, who appears only to him. Five more children quickly become part of Simon’s circle of friends, creating elaborate scavenger hunts for him that border on menacing intentions. The grand reopening of the orphanage finally comes, and Simon is less than thrilled to meet the new children. He is perfectly content playing with his imaginary group of friends, which frustrates his parents. Carlos believes it’s because he is acting out for attention, while Laura is more skeptical of the situation believing it may have something to do with the orphanage itself. As Simon runs off to play in his imaginary world, Laura sees something that makes her question if her son’s friends are a little more than imaginary. Scared and confused Laura looks for Simon, and when she cannot find him she immediately becomes frantic and realizes that he has completely vanished.

Laura begins digging up the past, searching for answers as to what happened to the children from the orphanage and how it relates to her son’s disappearance. She soon becomes immersed in the world that Simon was so fixated with and eventually goes on a scavenger hunt of her own, set up by the children, to find her son.

The Orphanage is directed by newcomer Juan Antonio Bayona, and produced and presented by well respected director Guillermo del Toro, who made the critically acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth last year. The Orphanage is this year’s Pan’s Labyrinth and a horror masterpiece, which has already been chosen by the Spanish Academy of Films as Spain's nominee for the 2007 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.

The real jewel of this movie though, is Belen Rueda, who delivers a performance that nearly brought me to tears. The relationship between mother and son is fixed in your mind throughout, so when Laura loses her son in the middle of the movie, you feel an intense sorrow for her. In other horror movies you’re just in it for the creative deaths, rooting for Paris Hilton to bite it in the most gruesome way in House of Wax, but in The Orphanage you really care about the family. Since Simon vanishes halfway through and Carlos doesn’t play too important a role, Rueda gets that much more credit for going it alone.

The Orphanage is definitely the must-see of horror movies this year with its quick paced story and its scream out loud scares. I guarantee you will be seeing more of Juan Antonio Bayona in the future, and if the writer’s strike ever ends, you’ll definitely see it pick up some awards at this year’s Oscars.

Grade: A

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Long Awaited Return

After a long hiatus, I'm back in action and ready to write again. Finally having gotten over the initial shock of returning to school, my mind is back on film and with Netflix at my side this time around, I'm prepared to revolutionize the film industry. Well...I might be setting my sights a little bit high, so I'll just settle with keeping what few readers I have left informed of what's going on in film and what I have to say about it.

For right now, I'd just like to say how excited I am about having Netflix for the first time. It's been working out great with the affordable $8.99 plan which allows me to get one movie at a time, but the amount of movies per month is unlimited. Included is 9 hours of instant watching time. The one thing I was worried about was the return policy. Firstly, I wanted to know about late fees...low and behold there are NO LATE FEES whatsoever. You are allowed to hang onto a movie for as long as you want. And Second, I was concerned about how deliveries would work trying to fit a package through a tiny mail slot and how I would package it up in order to return it. Again, Netflix pulls through. The package is as thin as an envelop and will fit in any mail slot no matter the size. And as for sending it back, you just reseal the envelop that the movie arrived in with the unused sticky strip on the edge of the envelop. It's genius and I'm sad I've caught on so late, but if YOU haven't GET ON IT!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Pirates 3: A Sinking Franchise

Of the three most anticipated, box office smashing sequels to hit theaters this summer, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was probably the worst of the three failures. I would describe Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates: AWE as "entertaining" at best. The Pirates trilogy started with a bang and fizzled out quicker than you can say "Captain Jack Sparrow." There is more than one reason why I disliked Pirates: AWE, but I'd have to say poor writing was what sunk this already badly damaged ship. With too many plot lines and not much character development, I constantly found myself wondering more than once if there was a deleted scene that was supposed to go there. Just way too much material and not enough screen time and continuity, and with all the poor acting going on in this film even Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush couldn't keep it afloat. With no chemistry between Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, it was impossible to believe much of anything that was going on. Instead of making me swoon, sentimental moments made me cringe and feel embarrassed for the people who took part in this shipwreck of a film. In the last two installments, the comedic element has pretty much vanished entirely, the jokes just weren't funny, but more along the lines of corny. Even the rum was gone.

Grade: C-

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Al Pacino to Recieve AFI's Life Achievement Award

Al Pacino has been chosen to receive the 35th AFI Life Achievement Award, one of the highest honors in film. Previous recipients include: Sir Sean Connery, Robert DeNiro, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas, Sidney Poitier, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Meryl Streep.
The award will be presented to Pacino on June 7th, and will be televised on the USA Network on Tuesday, June 19th at 9:00pm and 12:00am and also on Saturday, June 23rd at 9:00am.

More on AFI.

Knocked Up: Teaser Trailer

In Theaters Now!

More on the History Channel

Tomorrow, June 3rd, on The History Channel, there will be a 2-hour encore presentation of "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed" at 8:00pm.
Through interviews with politicians, academics, journalists and critics, we'll learn about the similarities between the tales of Luke Skywalker and King Arthur and Buddha and Yoda. We'll see how Star Wars' intensely compelling stories - borrowed from diverse traditions, from Greek mythology and American westerns to the Bible and even Vaudeville - force us to explore some of the biggest questions of our time.

Go here to find out more. May the force be with you.

Spider-Man: Genetic Possibility?

Film is definitely my #1 passion, but the history channel definitely comes in at a close second. As I was watching The History Channel this morning, I came across a really interesting program called Spider-Man Tech. This focuses on putting Spider-Man's abilities to the test, using science to determine which of his abilities are fiction and which are possible. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko weigh in along with scientists. Now if you're thinking that Spider-Man's abilities are entirely fictitious, think again because splicing the genetics of a mouse and a luminescent jellyfish have created a new species of glowing mice....yeah, you heard me right.
The next showings of Spider-Man Tech will be Wednesday, June 13th at 10:00am and 4:00pm.
For more info go to The History Channel's site.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shrek the Last

Shrek the Third is the second big sequel to hit theaters this summer, and the second sequel to disappoint critically. Lacking the comedic genius of the first two Shreks, Shrek the Third just can't top its previous installments. However, I did enjoy the film and found it to be entertaining and it's that kind of film that will put you in a good mood even if it didn't stand up to your expectations.
Justin Timberlake as Artie is a great addition to the cast, as one of the better characters of this film. I only wish we got a little more out of Puss in Boots, my personal favorite. Donkey just seems to be kind of useless in Shrek the Third. I can't seem to recall one funny line from him that wasn't in the trailer. Shrek is a bit duller, but still humorous as always.
Although Shrek the Third might be the last we see of the green ogre, it is still worth that trip to the movies to bid it farewell.

Grade: B-

Emo Spidey?

Spider-Man 3 is probably the movie that everyone is looking forward to this summer. However, it does not deliver the way fans would have wanted it to. Although Spider-Man 3 is entertaining, compared to the franchise's previous installments, it just falls flat on its face.
Spider-Man 3 starts out with Peter preparing to propose to Mary Jane, Harry wanting some revenge, and Sandman escaping from prison. Already the plot is overwhelming with multiple villains. For X-Men, multiple villains works, but when it's one hero verse all, it's better to keep it simple. Eventually the highly anticipated Venom, played by Topher Grace, is brought into the story, probably one of the few great parts of the film which is taken directly from the comic book and copied shot for shot. Grace is one of the few in the film that actually did a great acting job, but besides his performance, Spider-Man 3 comes off as the whiny addition of the Spider-Man franchise. Peter is crying over Mary Jane, Harry over his dead father, Sandman over his sick daughter, Mary Jane over her failure as an actress, and Eddie Brock over his pathetic life....see what I'm getting at? In the words of my generation, "stop being so damn emo!" The audience wants to see action, laughs, love and strong heroes...not some whiny baby who used to save the world. And for a movie that's 2.5 hours, the editor should be shunned because there was about 30 minutes of pure crap in the middle which includes Peter Parker with his new emo haircut and all black outfit, dancing down the street (this scene actually made me embarassed for Maguire), which should have been cut. Go figure.
Despite my overall opinion, the one thing that makes this movie decent is the CGI, which is flawless in its execution. The action scenes are stunning and you actually feel as if you have that slow motion Spidey-sense. So props to the visual effects department.

Grade: C+